Questions & Answers
Storage & Handling - Vaccine Storage
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Vaccine Storage Equipment

  1. Can a dormitory style refrigerator be used to permanently store vaccines?
    CDC does not recommend the use of dormitory-style or bar-style combined refrigerator/freezers for ANY vaccine storage.

  2. Is there a DoD policy requiring certain vaccine storage equipment to be purchased?
    No, clinics should follow guidance for appropriate storage equipment as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), or service policies.

  3. What are the general requirements for the type of refrigerator, freezer, or combined refrigerator/freezer unit used to store vaccines?
    CDC strongly recommends the use of stand-alone refrigerators and stand-alone freezer units, meaning a self-contained unit that only refrigerates or freezes and is suitable for vaccine storage. These units can vary in size, from compact, under-the-counter style to a large, stand-alone, pharmaceutical grade storage unit. The characteristics of a recommended storage unit include: enough room to store the year's largest inventory without crowding and sufficient room to store water bottles in the refrigerator and frozen coolant packs in the freezer to stabilize the temperature and minimize temperature fluctuations that can impact vaccine potency. In addition, frost-free or automatic defrost cycle units are preferred.

  4. How can you stabilize temperatures in the refrigerator?
    You can help stabilize and maintain the temperature in the refrigerator by adding buffers such as at least two or three large containers of water placed against the inside walls and in the door racks. The addition of water bottles (not gel packs) reduces the risk of freezing due to the tremendous latent heat released from water prior to freezing. Not only will water bottles help maintain an even temperature they also help keep the temperatures stable in the event of a power failure.

  5. How can you stabilize temperatures in the freezer?
    You can help stabilize and maintain the temperature in the freezer by adding buffers such as frozen packs along the walls, back, and bottom of the freezer compartment and inside the racks of the freezer door.

  6. What are the requirements for the vaccine storage room?
    Good air circulation around the vaccine storage unit is essential for proper heat exchange and cooling functions. The unit should be placed in a well-ventilated room and should have space around the sides and top. If the room temperature is too hot it is recommended that a small AC portal unit or extra ventilation vents are added to ensure room temperature remains stable and does not cause the refrigerator/freezer temperatures to shift outside of normal range.

  7. What regular maintenance should be conducted on vaccine storage equipment?
    Users should conduct regular maintenance tasks that can be divided into daily, weekly, monthly and periodic actions such as: on a daily basis check the temps and ensure the storage unit doors are closed; on a weekly basis defrost the freezer; on a monthly basis clean the coils and motor, clean the storage unit compartments, and check the door seals; and periodically check/clean the drain pan. Facilities should maintain a logbook which contains records indicating the serial numbers of each piece of equipment, the date each piece of equipment was installed, the dates of any routine maintenance tasks (such as cleaning), the dates of any repairs or servicing, and the name of the person performing each of these tasks. This logbook is also an ideal place to keep the instructions that came with the equipment.

  8. Can I use a combination household style refrigerator/freezer to store vaccines?
    CDC recommends the use of stand-alone units as a best practice. An alternative to stand-alone units is to use only the refrigerator compartment of a combination household refrigerator/freezer unit to store refrigerated vaccines and to be very careful not to use the top shelf if the vent from the freezer opens there. A separate stand-alone freezer should then be used to store frozen vaccines; this is because the freezer compartment of a combined house-hold unit should not be used for vaccine storage if the refrigerator unit is being used for that purpose. The usual house-hold single-condenser combination refrigerator/freezer units are less capable of simultaneously maintaining proper storage temperatures in the refrigerator and freezer compartments. These refrigerators are cooled by venting cold freezer air into the refrigerated section – thus there is a real risk of freezing vaccine near the cooling vents.